Natural number

Natural number

Overview

In mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, the natural numbers are the ordinary whole numbers used for counting
Counting
Counting is the action of finding the number of elements of a finite set of objects. The traditional way of counting consists of continually increasing a counter by a unit for every element of the set, in some order, while marking those elements to avoid visiting the same element more than once,...

 ("there are 6 coins on the table") and ordering
Total order
In set theory, a total order, linear order, simple order, or ordering is a binary relation on some set X. The relation is transitive, antisymmetric, and total...

 ("this is the 3rd largest city in the country"). These purposes are related to the linguistic notions of cardinal and ordinal numbers, respectively (see English numerals). A more recent notion is that of a nominal number
Nominal number
Nominal numbers are numerals used for identification only. The numerical value is irrelevant, and they do not indicate quantity, rank, or any other measurement.-Definition:...

, which is used only for naming.

Properties of the natural numbers related to divisibility, such as the distribution of prime number
Prime number
A prime number is a natural number greater than 1 that has no positive divisors other than 1 and itself. A natural number greater than 1 that is not a prime number is called a composite number. For example 5 is prime, as only 1 and 5 divide it, whereas 6 is composite, since it has the divisors 2...

s, are studied in number theory
Number theory
Number theory is a branch of pure mathematics devoted primarily to the study of the integers. Number theorists study prime numbers as well...

.
Discussion
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In mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, the natural numbers are the ordinary whole numbers used for counting
Counting
Counting is the action of finding the number of elements of a finite set of objects. The traditional way of counting consists of continually increasing a counter by a unit for every element of the set, in some order, while marking those elements to avoid visiting the same element more than once,...

 ("there are 6 coins on the table") and ordering
Total order
In set theory, a total order, linear order, simple order, or ordering is a binary relation on some set X. The relation is transitive, antisymmetric, and total...

 ("this is the 3rd largest city in the country"). These purposes are related to the linguistic notions of cardinal and ordinal numbers, respectively (see English numerals). A more recent notion is that of a nominal number
Nominal number
Nominal numbers are numerals used for identification only. The numerical value is irrelevant, and they do not indicate quantity, rank, or any other measurement.-Definition:...

, which is used only for naming.

Properties of the natural numbers related to divisibility, such as the distribution of prime number
Prime number
A prime number is a natural number greater than 1 that has no positive divisors other than 1 and itself. A natural number greater than 1 that is not a prime number is called a composite number. For example 5 is prime, as only 1 and 5 divide it, whereas 6 is composite, since it has the divisors 2...

s, are studied in number theory
Number theory
Number theory is a branch of pure mathematics devoted primarily to the study of the integers. Number theorists study prime numbers as well...

. Problems concerning counting and ordering, such as partition
Partition (number theory)
In number theory and combinatorics, a partition of a positive integer n, also called an integer partition, is a way of writing n as a sum of positive integers. Two sums that differ only in the order of their summands are considered to be the same partition; if order matters then the sum becomes a...

 enumeration
Enumeration
In mathematics and theoretical computer science, the broadest and most abstract definition of an enumeration of a set is an exact listing of all of its elements . The restrictions imposed on the type of list used depend on the branch of mathematics and the context in which one is working...

, are studied in combinatorics
Combinatorics
Combinatorics is a branch of mathematics concerning the study of finite or countable discrete structures. Aspects of combinatorics include counting the structures of a given kind and size , deciding when certain criteria can be met, and constructing and analyzing objects meeting the criteria ,...

.

There is no universal agreement about whether to include zero in the set of natural numbers: some define the natural numbers to be the positive integer
Integer
The integers are formed by the natural numbers together with the negatives of the non-zero natural numbers .They are known as Positive and Negative Integers respectively...

s
} = { { }, ,
{{refimprove|date=October 2011}}

In mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, the natural numbers are the ordinary whole numbers used for counting
Counting
Counting is the action of finding the number of elements of a finite set of objects. The traditional way of counting consists of continually increasing a counter by a unit for every element of the set, in some order, while marking those elements to avoid visiting the same element more than once,...

 ("there are 6 coins on the table") and ordering
Total order
In set theory, a total order, linear order, simple order, or ordering is a binary relation on some set X. The relation is transitive, antisymmetric, and total...

 ("this is the 3rd largest city in the country"). These purposes are related to the linguistic notions of cardinal and ordinal numbers, respectively (see English numerals). A more recent notion is that of a nominal number
Nominal number
Nominal numbers are numerals used for identification only. The numerical value is irrelevant, and they do not indicate quantity, rank, or any other measurement.-Definition:...

, which is used only for naming.

Properties of the natural numbers related to divisibility, such as the distribution of prime number
Prime number
A prime number is a natural number greater than 1 that has no positive divisors other than 1 and itself. A natural number greater than 1 that is not a prime number is called a composite number. For example 5 is prime, as only 1 and 5 divide it, whereas 6 is composite, since it has the divisors 2...

s, are studied in number theory
Number theory
Number theory is a branch of pure mathematics devoted primarily to the study of the integers. Number theorists study prime numbers as well...

. Problems concerning counting and ordering, such as partition
Partition (number theory)
In number theory and combinatorics, a partition of a positive integer n, also called an integer partition, is a way of writing n as a sum of positive integers. Two sums that differ only in the order of their summands are considered to be the same partition; if order matters then the sum becomes a...

 enumeration
Enumeration
In mathematics and theoretical computer science, the broadest and most abstract definition of an enumeration of a set is an exact listing of all of its elements . The restrictions imposed on the type of list used depend on the branch of mathematics and the context in which one is working...

, are studied in combinatorics
Combinatorics
Combinatorics is a branch of mathematics concerning the study of finite or countable discrete structures. Aspects of combinatorics include counting the structures of a given kind and size , deciding when certain criteria can be met, and constructing and analyzing objects meeting the criteria ,...

.

There is no universal agreement about whether to include zero in the set of natural numbers: some define the natural numbers to be the positive integer
Integer
The integers are formed by the natural numbers together with the negatives of the non-zero natural numbers .They are known as Positive and Negative Integers respectively...

s
{{nowrap|1=
{{refimprove|date=October 2011}}

In mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, the natural numbers are the ordinary whole numbers used for counting
Counting
Counting is the action of finding the number of elements of a finite set of objects. The traditional way of counting consists of continually increasing a counter by a unit for every element of the set, in some order, while marking those elements to avoid visiting the same element more than once,...

 ("there are 6 coins on the table") and ordering
Total order
In set theory, a total order, linear order, simple order, or ordering is a binary relation on some set X. The relation is transitive, antisymmetric, and total...

 ("this is the 3rd largest city in the country"). These purposes are related to the linguistic notions of cardinal and ordinal numbers, respectively (see English numerals). A more recent notion is that of a nominal number
Nominal number
Nominal numbers are numerals used for identification only. The numerical value is irrelevant, and they do not indicate quantity, rank, or any other measurement.-Definition:...

, which is used only for naming.

Properties of the natural numbers related to divisibility, such as the distribution of prime number
Prime number
A prime number is a natural number greater than 1 that has no positive divisors other than 1 and itself. A natural number greater than 1 that is not a prime number is called a composite number. For example 5 is prime, as only 1 and 5 divide it, whereas 6 is composite, since it has the divisors 2...

s, are studied in number theory
Number theory
Number theory is a branch of pure mathematics devoted primarily to the study of the integers. Number theorists study prime numbers as well...

. Problems concerning counting and ordering, such as partition
Partition (number theory)
In number theory and combinatorics, a partition of a positive integer n, also called an integer partition, is a way of writing n as a sum of positive integers. Two sums that differ only in the order of their summands are considered to be the same partition; if order matters then the sum becomes a...

 enumeration
Enumeration
In mathematics and theoretical computer science, the broadest and most abstract definition of an enumeration of a set is an exact listing of all of its elements . The restrictions imposed on the type of list used depend on the branch of mathematics and the context in which one is working...

, are studied in combinatorics
Combinatorics
Combinatorics is a branch of mathematics concerning the study of finite or countable discrete structures. Aspects of combinatorics include counting the structures of a given kind and size , deciding when certain criteria can be met, and constructing and analyzing objects meeting the criteria ,...

.

There is no universal agreement about whether to include zero in the set of natural numbers: some define the natural numbers to be the positive integer
Integer
The integers are formed by the natural numbers together with the negatives of the non-zero natural numbers .They are known as Positive and Negative Integers respectively...

s
{{nowrap|1=
{{refimprove|date=October 2011}}

In mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, the natural numbers are the ordinary whole numbers used for counting
Counting
Counting is the action of finding the number of elements of a finite set of objects. The traditional way of counting consists of continually increasing a counter by a unit for every element of the set, in some order, while marking those elements to avoid visiting the same element more than once,...

 ("there are 6 coins on the table") and ordering
Total order
In set theory, a total order, linear order, simple order, or ordering is a binary relation on some set X. The relation is transitive, antisymmetric, and total...

 ("this is the 3rd largest city in the country"). These purposes are related to the linguistic notions of cardinal and ordinal numbers, respectively (see English numerals). A more recent notion is that of a nominal number
Nominal number
Nominal numbers are numerals used for identification only. The numerical value is irrelevant, and they do not indicate quantity, rank, or any other measurement.-Definition:...

, which is used only for naming.

Properties of the natural numbers related to divisibility, such as the distribution of prime number
Prime number
A prime number is a natural number greater than 1 that has no positive divisors other than 1 and itself. A natural number greater than 1 that is not a prime number is called a composite number. For example 5 is prime, as only 1 and 5 divide it, whereas 6 is composite, since it has the divisors 2...

s, are studied in number theory
Number theory
Number theory is a branch of pure mathematics devoted primarily to the study of the integers. Number theorists study prime numbers as well...

. Problems concerning counting and ordering, such as partition
Partition (number theory)
In number theory and combinatorics, a partition of a positive integer n, also called an integer partition, is a way of writing n as a sum of positive integers. Two sums that differ only in the order of their summands are considered to be the same partition; if order matters then the sum becomes a...

 enumeration
Enumeration
In mathematics and theoretical computer science, the broadest and most abstract definition of an enumeration of a set is an exact listing of all of its elements . The restrictions imposed on the type of list used depend on the branch of mathematics and the context in which one is working...

, are studied in combinatorics
Combinatorics
Combinatorics is a branch of mathematics concerning the study of finite or countable discrete structures. Aspects of combinatorics include counting the structures of a given kind and size , deciding when certain criteria can be met, and constructing and analyzing objects meeting the criteria ,...

.

There is no universal agreement about whether to include zero in the set of natural numbers: some define the natural numbers to be the positive integer
Integer
The integers are formed by the natural numbers together with the negatives of the non-zero natural numbers .They are known as Positive and Negative Integers respectively...

s
{{nowrap|1={{{num|1}}, {{num|2}}, {{num|3}}, ...}}}, while for others the term designates the non-negative integers {{nowrap|1={{{num|0}}, 1, 2, 3, ...}}}. The former definition is the traditional one, with the latter definition first appearing in the 19th century. Some authors use the term "natural number" to exclude zero and "whole number
Whole number
Whole number is a term with inconsistent definitions by different authors. All distinguish whole numbers from fractions and numbers with fractional parts.Whole numbers may refer to:*natural numbers in sense — the positive integers...

" to include it; others use "whole number" in a way that excludes zero, or in a way that includes both zero and the negative integers.

History of natural numbers and the status of zero


The natural numbers had their origins in the words used to count things, beginning with the number 1.

The first major advance in abstraction was the use of numerals
Numeral system
A numeral system is a writing system for expressing numbers, that is a mathematical notation for representing numbers of a given set, using graphemes or symbols in a consistent manner....

 to represent numbers. This allowed systems to be developed for recording large numbers. The ancient Egyptians
History of Ancient Egypt
The History of Ancient Egypt spans the period from the early predynastic settlements of the northern Nile Valley to the Roman conquest in 30 BC...

 developed a powerful system of numerals with distinct hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs were a formal writing system used by the ancient Egyptians that combined logographic and alphabetic elements. Egyptians used cursive hieroglyphs for religious literature on papyrus and wood...

 for 1, 10, and all the powers of 10 up to over one million. A stone carving from Karnak
Karnak
The Karnak Temple Complex—usually called Karnak—comprises a vast mix of decayed temples, chapels, pylons, and other buildings, notably the Great Temple of Amun and a massive structure begun by Pharaoh Ramses II . Sacred Lake is part of the site as well. It is located near Luxor, some...

, dating from around 1500 BC and now at the Louvre
Louvre
The Musée du Louvre – in English, the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement...

 in Paris, depicts 276 as 2 hundreds, 7 tens, and 6 ones; and similarly for the number 4,622. The Babylonia
Babylonia
Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

ns had a place-value
Positional notation
Positional notation or place-value notation is a method of representing or encoding numbers. Positional notation is distinguished from other notations for its use of the same symbol for the different orders of magnitude...

 system based essentially on the numerals for 1 and 10.

A much later advance was the development of the idea that zero
0 (number)
0 is both a numberand the numerical digit used to represent that number in numerals.It fulfills a central role in mathematics as the additive identity of the integers, real numbers, and many other algebraic structures. As a digit, 0 is used as a placeholder in place value systems...

 can be considered as a number, with its own numeral. The use of a zero digit
Numerical digit
A digit is a symbol used in combinations to represent numbers in positional numeral systems. The name "digit" comes from the fact that the 10 digits of the hands correspond to the 10 symbols of the common base 10 number system, i.e...

 in place-value notation (within other numbers) dates back as early as 700 BC by the Babylonians, but they omitted such a digit when it would have been the last symbol in the number. The Olmec
Olmec
The Olmec were the first major Pre-Columbian civilization in Mexico. They lived in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico, in the modern-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco....

 and Maya civilization
Maya civilization
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period The Maya is a Mesoamerican...

s used zero as a separate number as early as the 1st century BC, but this usage did not spread beyond Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica is a region and culture area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and...

. The use of a numeral zero in modern times originated with the India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

n mathematician Brahmagupta
Brahmagupta
Brahmagupta was an Indian mathematician and astronomer who wrote many important works on mathematics and astronomy. His best known work is the Brāhmasphuṭasiddhānta , written in 628 in Bhinmal...

 in 628. However, zero had been used as a number in the medieval computus
Computus
Computus is the calculation of the date of Easter in the Christian calendar. The name has been used for this procedure since the early Middle Ages, as it was one of the most important computations of the age....

 (the calculation of the date of Easter
Easter
Easter is the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Day or Easter Sunday...

), beginning with Dionysius Exiguus
Dionysius Exiguus
Dionysius Exiguus was a 6th-century monk born in Scythia Minor, modern Dobruja shared by Romania and Bulgaria. He was a member of the Scythian monks community concentrated in Tomis, the major city of Scythia Minor...

 in 525, without being denoted by a numeral (standard Roman numerals
Roman numerals
The numeral system of ancient Rome, or Roman numerals, uses combinations of letters from the Latin alphabet to signify values. The numbers 1 to 10 can be expressed in Roman numerals as:...

 do not have a symbol for zero); instead nulla or nullae, genitive of nullus, the Latin word for "none", was employed to denote a zero value.

The first systematic study of numbers as abstraction
Abstraction
Abstraction is a process by which higher concepts are derived from the usage and classification of literal concepts, first principles, or other methods....

s (that is, as abstract entities
Entity
An entity is something that has a distinct, separate existence, although it need not be a material existence. In particular, abstractions and legal fictions are usually regarded as entities. In general, there is also no presumption that an entity is animate.An entity could be viewed as a set...

) is usually credited to the Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 philosophers Pythagoras
Pythagoras
Pythagoras of Samos was an Ionian Greek philosopher, mathematician, and founder of the religious movement called Pythagoreanism. Most of the information about Pythagoras was written down centuries after he lived, so very little reliable information is known about him...

 and Archimedes
Archimedes
Archimedes of Syracuse was a Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer. Although few details of his life are known, he is regarded as one of the leading scientists in classical antiquity. Among his advances in physics are the foundations of hydrostatics, statics and an...

. Note that many Greek mathematicians did not consider 1 to be "a number", so to them 2 was the smallest number.

Independent studies also occurred at around the same time in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, and Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica is a region and culture area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and...

.{{fact|date=October 2011}}

Several set-theoretical definitions of natural numbers
Set-theoretic definition of natural numbers
Several ways have been proposed to define the natural numbers using set theory.- The contemporary standard :In standard, Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory the natural numbers...

 were developed in the 19th century. With these definitions it was convenient to include 0 (corresponding to the empty set
Empty set
In mathematics, and more specifically set theory, the empty set is the unique set having no elements; its size or cardinality is zero. Some axiomatic set theories assure that the empty set exists by including an axiom of empty set; in other theories, its existence can be deduced...

) as a natural number. Including 0 is now the common convention among set theorists
Set theory
Set theory is the branch of mathematics that studies sets, which are collections of objects. Although any type of object can be collected into a set, set theory is applied most often to objects that are relevant to mathematics...

, logic
Logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

ians, and computer scientists
Computer science
Computer science or computing science is the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation and of practical techniques for their implementation and application in computer systems...

. Many other mathematicians also include 0, although some have kept the older tradition and take 1 to be the first natural number. Sometimes the set of natural numbers with 0 included is called the set of whole number
Whole number
Whole number is a term with inconsistent definitions by different authors. All distinguish whole numbers from fractions and numbers with fractional parts.Whole numbers may refer to:*natural numbers in sense — the positive integers...

s or counting numbers. On the other hand, while integer being Latin for whole, the integers usually stand for the negative and positive whole numbers (and zero) altogether.

Notation


Mathematicians use N or (an N in blackboard bold
Blackboard bold
Blackboard bold is a typeface style that is often used for certain symbols in mathematical texts, in which certain lines of the symbol are doubled. The symbols usually denote number sets...

, displayed as {{unicode|ℕ}} in Unicode) to refer to the set of all natural numbers. This set is countably infinite: it is infinite but countable
Countable set
In mathematics, a countable set is a set with the same cardinality as some subset of the set of natural numbers. A set that is not countable is called uncountable. The term was originated by Georg Cantor...

 by definition. This is also expressed by saying that the cardinal number
Cardinal number
In mathematics, cardinal numbers, or cardinals for short, are a generalization of the natural numbers used to measure the cardinality of sets. The cardinality of a finite set is a natural number – the number of elements in the set. The transfinite cardinal numbers describe the sizes of infinite...

 of the set is aleph-null .

To be unambiguous about whether zero is included or not, sometimes an index (or superscript) "0" is added in the former case, and a superscript "" or subscript "" is added in the latter case:


(Sometimes, an index or superscript "+" is added to signify "positive". However, this is often used for "nonnegative" in other cases, as R+ = [0,∞) and Z+ = { 0, 1, 2,... }, at least in European literature. The notation "", however, is standard for nonzero, or rather, invertible elements.)

Some authors who exclude zero from the naturals use the terms natural numbers with zero, whole numbers, or counting numbers, denoted W, for the set of nonnegative integers. Others use the notation P for the positive integers if there is no danger of confusing this with the prime numbers.

Set theorists often denote the set of all natural numbers including zero by a lower-case Greek letter omega
Omega
Omega is the 24th and last letter of the Greek alphabet. In the Greek numeric system, it has a value of 800. The word literally means "great O" , as opposed to omicron, which means "little O"...

: ω. This stems from the identification of an ordinal number
Ordinal number
In set theory, an ordinal number, or just ordinal, is the order type of a well-ordered set. They are usually identified with hereditarily transitive sets. Ordinals are an extension of the natural numbers different from integers and from cardinals...

 with the set of ordinals that are smaller. One may observe that adopting the von Neumann definition of ordinals and defining cardinal numbers as minimal ordinals among those with same cardinality, one gets .

Algebraic properties


The addition (+) and multiplication (×) operations on natural numbers have several algebraic properties:
  • Closure
    Closure (mathematics)
    In mathematics, a set is said to be closed under some operation if performance of that operation on members of the set always produces a unique member of the same set. For example, the real numbers are closed under subtraction, but the natural numbers are not: 3 and 8 are both natural numbers, but...

     under addition and multiplication: for all natural numbers a and b, both a + b and a × b are natural numbers.
  • Associativity
    Associativity
    In mathematics, associativity is a property of some binary operations. It means that, within an expression containing two or more occurrences in a row of the same associative operator, the order in which the operations are performed does not matter as long as the sequence of the operands is not...

    : for all natural numbers a, b, and c, a + (b + c) = (a + b) + c and a × (b × c) = (a × b) × c.
  • Commutativity
    Commutativity
    In mathematics an operation is commutative if changing the order of the operands does not change the end result. It is a fundamental property of many binary operations, and many mathematical proofs depend on it...

    : for all natural numbers a and b, a + b = b + a and a × b = b × a.
  • Existence of identity element
    Identity element
    In mathematics, an identity element is a special type of element of a set with respect to a binary operation on that set. It leaves other elements unchanged when combined with them...

    s: for every natural number a, a + 0 = a and a × 1 = a.
  • Distributivity
    Distributivity
    In mathematics, and in particular in abstract algebra, distributivity is a property of binary operations that generalizes the distributive law from elementary algebra.For example:...

     of multiplication over addition for all natural numbers a, b, and c, a × (b + c)  =  (a × b) + (a × c)
  • No zero divisor
    Zero divisor
    In abstract algebra, a nonzero element a of a ring is a left zero divisor if there exists a nonzero b such that ab = 0. Similarly, a nonzero element a of a ring is a right zero divisor if there exists a nonzero c such that ca = 0. An element that is both a left and a right zero divisor is simply...

    s: if a and b are natural numbers such that a × b = 0   then a = 0 or b = 0

Properties


One can recursively define an addition on the natural numbers by setting a + 0 = a and {{nowrap|a + S(b)}} = {{nowrap|S(a + b)}} for all a, b. Here S should be read as "successor". This turns the natural numbers {{nowrap|(N, +)}} into a commutative monoid
Monoid
In abstract algebra, a branch of mathematics, a monoid is an algebraic structure with a single associative binary operation and an identity element. Monoids are studied in semigroup theory as they are naturally semigroups with identity. Monoids occur in several branches of mathematics; for...

 with identity element
Identity element
In mathematics, an identity element is a special type of element of a set with respect to a binary operation on that set. It leaves other elements unchanged when combined with them...

 0, the so-called free monoid
Free object
In mathematics, the idea of a free object is one of the basic concepts of abstract algebra. It is a part of universal algebra, in the sense that it relates to all types of algebraic structure . It also has a formulation in terms of category theory, although this is in yet more abstract terms....

 with one generator. This monoid satisfies the cancellation property
Cancellation property
In mathematics, the notion of cancellative is a generalization of the notion of invertible.An element a in a magma has the left cancellation property if for all b and c in M, a * b = a * c always implies b = c.An element a in a magma has the right cancellation...

 and can be embedded in a group
Group (mathematics)
In mathematics, a group is an algebraic structure consisting of a set together with an operation that combines any two of its elements to form a third element. To qualify as a group, the set and the operation must satisfy a few conditions called group axioms, namely closure, associativity, identity...

. The smallest group containing the natural numbers is the integer
Integer
The integers are formed by the natural numbers together with the negatives of the non-zero natural numbers .They are known as Positive and Negative Integers respectively...

s.

If we define 1 := S(0), then b + 1 = b + S(0) = S(b + 0) = S(b). That is, b + 1 is simply the successor of b.

Analogously, given that addition has been defined, a multiplication
Multiplication
Multiplication is the mathematical operation of scaling one number by another. It is one of the four basic operations in elementary arithmetic ....

 × can be defined via a × 0 = 0 and a × S(b) = (a × b) + a. This turns {{nowrap|(N*, ×)}} into a free commutative monoid with identity element 1; a generator set for this monoid is the set of prime number
Prime number
A prime number is a natural number greater than 1 that has no positive divisors other than 1 and itself. A natural number greater than 1 that is not a prime number is called a composite number. For example 5 is prime, as only 1 and 5 divide it, whereas 6 is composite, since it has the divisors 2...

s. Addition and multiplication are compatible, which is expressed in the distribution law
Distributivity
In mathematics, and in particular in abstract algebra, distributivity is a property of binary operations that generalizes the distributive law from elementary algebra.For example:...

:
{{nowrap|a × (b + c)}} = {{nowrap|(a × b) + (a × c)}}. These properties of addition and multiplication make the natural numbers an instance of a commutative semiring
Semiring
In abstract algebra, a semiring is an algebraic structure similar to a ring, but without the requirement that each element must have an additive inverse...

. Semirings are an algebraic generalization of the natural numbers where multiplication is not necessarily commutative. The lack of additive inverses, which is equivalent to the fact that N is not closed under subtraction, means that N is not a ring
Ring (mathematics)
In mathematics, a ring is an algebraic structure consisting of a set together with two binary operations usually called addition and multiplication, where the set is an abelian group under addition and a semigroup under multiplication such that multiplication distributes over addition...

; instead it is a semiring
Semiring
In abstract algebra, a semiring is an algebraic structure similar to a ring, but without the requirement that each element must have an additive inverse...

 (also known as a rig).

If we interpret the natural numbers as "excluding 0", and "starting at 1", the definitions of + and × are as above, except that we start with a + 1 = S(a) and {{nowrap|a × 1 {{=}} a}}.

For the remainder of the article, we write ab to indicate the product a × b, and we also assume the standard order of operations
Order of operations
In mathematics and computer programming, the order of operations is a rule used to clarify unambiguously which procedures should be performed first in a given mathematical expression....

.

Furthermore, one defines a total order
Total order
In set theory, a total order, linear order, simple order, or ordering is a binary relation on some set X. The relation is transitive, antisymmetric, and total...

 on the natural numbers by writing a ≤ b if and only if there exists another natural number c with a + c = b. This order is compatible with the arithmetical operations in the following sense: if a, b and c are natural numbers and a ≤ b, then {{nowrap|a + c}} ≤ {{nowrap|b + c}} and {{nowrap|acbc}}. An important property of the natural numbers is that they are well-order
Well-order
In mathematics, a well-order relation on a set S is a strict total order on S with the property that every non-empty subset of S has a least element in this ordering. Equivalently, a well-ordering is a well-founded strict total order...

ed: every non-empty set of natural numbers has a least element. The rank among well-ordered sets is expressed by an ordinal number
Ordinal number
In set theory, an ordinal number, or just ordinal, is the order type of a well-ordered set. They are usually identified with hereditarily transitive sets. Ordinals are an extension of the natural numbers different from integers and from cardinals...

; for the natural numbers this is expressed as "ω".

While it is in general not possible to divide one natural number by another and get a natural number as result, the procedure of division
Division (mathematics)
right|thumb|200px|20 \div 4=5In mathematics, especially in elementary arithmetic, division is an arithmetic operation.Specifically, if c times b equals a, written:c \times b = a\,...

 with remainder
is available as a substitute: for any two natural numbers a and b with b ≠ 0 we can find natural numbers q and r such that
a = bq + r and r < b.


The number q is called the quotient
Quotient
In mathematics, a quotient is the result of division. For example, when dividing 6 by 3, the quotient is 2, while 6 is called the dividend, and 3 the divisor. The quotient further is expressed as the number of times the divisor divides into the dividend e.g. The quotient of 6 and 2 is also 3.A...

and r is called the remainder
Remainder
In arithmetic, the remainder is the amount "left over" after the division of two integers which cannot be expressed with an integer quotient....

of division of a by b. The numbers q and r are uniquely determined by a and b. This, the Division algorithm
Division algorithm
In mathematics, and more particularly in arithmetic, the usual process of division of integers producing a quotient and a remainder can be specified precisely by a theorem stating that these exist uniquely with given properties. An integer division algorithm is any effective method for producing...

, is key to several other properties (divisibility), algorithms (such as the Euclidean algorithm
Euclidean algorithm
In mathematics, the Euclidean algorithm is an efficient method for computing the greatest common divisor of two integers, also known as the greatest common factor or highest common factor...

), and ideas in number theory.

Generalizations


Two generalizations of natural numbers arise from the two uses:
  • A natural number can be used to express the size of a finite set; more generally a cardinal number
    Cardinal number
    In mathematics, cardinal numbers, or cardinals for short, are a generalization of the natural numbers used to measure the cardinality of sets. The cardinality of a finite set is a natural number – the number of elements in the set. The transfinite cardinal numbers describe the sizes of infinite...

     is a measure for the size of a set also suitable for infinite sets; this refers to a concept of "size" such that if there is a bijection between two sets they have the same size
    Equinumerosity
    In mathematics, two sets are equinumerous if they have the same cardinality, i.e., if there exists a bijection f : A → B for sets A and B. This is usually denoted A \approx B \, or A \sim B....

    . The set of natural numbers itself and any other countably infinite set has cardinality aleph-null ().
  • Linguistic ordinal numbers "first", "second", "third" can be assigned to the elements of a totally ordered finite set, and also to the elements of well-ordered countably infinite sets like the set of natural numbers itself. This can be generalized to ordinal number
    Ordinal number
    In set theory, an ordinal number, or just ordinal, is the order type of a well-ordered set. They are usually identified with hereditarily transitive sets. Ordinals are an extension of the natural numbers different from integers and from cardinals...

    s which describe the position of an element in a well-ordered set in general. An ordinal number is also used to describe the "size" of a well-ordered set, in a sense different from cardinality: if there is an order isomorphism
    Order isomorphism
    In the mathematical field of order theory an order isomorphism is a special kind of monotone function that constitutes a suitable notion of isomorphism for partially ordered sets . Whenever two posets are order isomorphic, they can be considered to be "essentially the same" in the sense that one of...

     between two well-ordered sets they have the same ordinal number. The first ordinal number that is not a natural number is expressed as ; this is also the ordinal number of the set of natural numbers itself.


Many well-ordered sets with cardinal number have an ordinal number greater than ω (the latter is the lowest possible). The least ordinal of cardinality (i.e., the initial ordinal
Von Neumann cardinal assignment
The von Neumann cardinal assignment is a cardinal assignment which uses ordinal numbers. For a well-ordered set U, we define its cardinal number to be the smallest ordinal number equinumerous to U. More precisely:...

) is .

For finite well-ordered sets, there is one-to-one correspondence between ordinal and cardinal numbers; therefore they can both be expressed by the same natural number, the number of elements of the set. This number can also be used to describe the position of an element in a larger finite, or an infinite, sequence
Sequence
In mathematics, a sequence is an ordered list of objects . Like a set, it contains members , and the number of terms is called the length of the sequence. Unlike a set, order matters, and exactly the same elements can appear multiple times at different positions in the sequence...

.

Hypernatural numbers are part of a non-standard model of arithmetic due to Skolem.

Other generalizations are discussed in the article on number
Number
A number is a mathematical object used to count and measure. In mathematics, the definition of number has been extended over the years to include such numbers as zero, negative numbers, rational numbers, irrational numbers, and complex numbers....

s.

Formal definitions


{{Main|Set-theoretic definition of natural numbers}}

Historically, the precise mathematical definition of the natural numbers developed with some difficulty. The Peano axioms state conditions that any successful definition must satisfy. Certain constructions show that, given set theory
Set theory
Set theory is the branch of mathematics that studies sets, which are collections of objects. Although any type of object can be collected into a set, set theory is applied most often to objects that are relevant to mathematics...

, models
Model theory
In mathematics, model theory is the study of mathematical structures using tools from mathematical logic....

 of the Peano postulates must exist.

Peano axioms


{{Main|Peano axioms}}

The Peano axioms
Peano axioms
In mathematical logic, the Peano axioms, also known as the Dedekind–Peano axioms or the Peano postulates, are a set of axioms for the natural numbers presented by the 19th century Italian mathematician Giuseppe Peano...

 give a formal theory of the natural numbers. The axioms are:
  • There is a natural number 0.
  • Every natural number a has a natural number successor, denoted by S(a). Intuitively, S(a) is a+1.
  • There is no natural number whose successor is 0.
  • S is injective, i.e. distinct natural numbers have distinct successors: if ab, then S(a) ≠ S(b).
  • If a property is possessed by 0 and also by the successor of every natural number which possesses it, then it is possessed by all natural numbers. (This postulate ensures that the proof technique of mathematical induction
    Mathematical induction
    Mathematical induction is a method of mathematical proof typically used to establish that a given statement is true of all natural numbers...

     is valid.)


It should be noted that the "0" in the above definition need not correspond to what we normally consider to be the number zero. "0" simply means some object that when combined with an appropriate successor function, satisfies the Peano axioms. All systems that satisfy these axioms are isomorphic, the name "0" is used here for the first element (the term "zeroth element" has been suggested to leave "first element" to "1", "second element" to "2", etc.), which is the only element that is not a successor. For example, the natural numbers starting with one also satisfy the axioms, if the symbol 0 is interpreted as the natural number 1, the symbol S(0) as the number 2, etc. In fact, in Peano's original formulation, the first natural number was 1.

A standard construction


A standard construction in set theory
Set theory
Set theory is the branch of mathematics that studies sets, which are collections of objects. Although any type of object can be collected into a set, set theory is applied most often to objects that are relevant to mathematics...

, a special case of the von Neumann ordinal construction, is to define the natural numbers as follows:
We set 0 := { }, the empty set
Empty set
In mathematics, and more specifically set theory, the empty set is the unique set having no elements; its size or cardinality is zero. Some axiomatic set theories assure that the empty set exists by including an axiom of empty set; in other theories, its existence can be deduced...

,
and define S(a) = a ∪ {a} for every set a. S(a) is the successor of a, and S is called the successor function.
By the axiom of infinity
Axiom of infinity
In axiomatic set theory and the branches of logic, mathematics, and computer science that use it, the axiom of infinity is one of the axioms of Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory...

, the set of all natural numbers exists and is the intersection of all sets containing 0 which are closed under this successor function. This then satisfies the Peano axioms
Peano axioms
In mathematical logic, the Peano axioms, also known as the Dedekind–Peano axioms or the Peano postulates, are a set of axioms for the natural numbers presented by the 19th century Italian mathematician Giuseppe Peano...

.
Each natural number is then equal to the set of all natural numbers less than it, so that
  • 0 = { }
  • 1 = {0} = {{ }}
  • 2 = {0, 1} = {0, {0}} = { { }, {{ }} }
  • 3 = {0, 1, 2} = {0, {0}, {0, {0}}} = { { }, {{ }},
    {{refimprove|date=October 2011}}

    In mathematics
    Mathematics
    Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

    , the natural numbers are the ordinary whole numbers used for counting
    Counting
    Counting is the action of finding the number of elements of a finite set of objects. The traditional way of counting consists of continually increasing a counter by a unit for every element of the set, in some order, while marking those elements to avoid visiting the same element more than once,...

     ("there are 6 coins on the table") and ordering
    Total order
    In set theory, a total order, linear order, simple order, or ordering is a binary relation on some set X. The relation is transitive, antisymmetric, and total...

     ("this is the 3rd largest city in the country"). These purposes are related to the linguistic notions of cardinal and ordinal numbers, respectively (see English numerals). A more recent notion is that of a nominal number
    Nominal number
    Nominal numbers are numerals used for identification only. The numerical value is irrelevant, and they do not indicate quantity, rank, or any other measurement.-Definition:...

    , which is used only for naming.

    Properties of the natural numbers related to divisibility, such as the distribution of prime number
    Prime number
    A prime number is a natural number greater than 1 that has no positive divisors other than 1 and itself. A natural number greater than 1 that is not a prime number is called a composite number. For example 5 is prime, as only 1 and 5 divide it, whereas 6 is composite, since it has the divisors 2...

    s, are studied in number theory
    Number theory
    Number theory is a branch of pure mathematics devoted primarily to the study of the integers. Number theorists study prime numbers as well...

    . Problems concerning counting and ordering, such as partition
    Partition (number theory)
    In number theory and combinatorics, a partition of a positive integer n, also called an integer partition, is a way of writing n as a sum of positive integers. Two sums that differ only in the order of their summands are considered to be the same partition; if order matters then the sum becomes a...

     enumeration
    Enumeration
    In mathematics and theoretical computer science, the broadest and most abstract definition of an enumeration of a set is an exact listing of all of its elements . The restrictions imposed on the type of list used depend on the branch of mathematics and the context in which one is working...

    , are studied in combinatorics
    Combinatorics
    Combinatorics is a branch of mathematics concerning the study of finite or countable discrete structures. Aspects of combinatorics include counting the structures of a given kind and size , deciding when certain criteria can be met, and constructing and analyzing objects meeting the criteria ,...

    .

    There is no universal agreement about whether to include zero in the set of natural numbers: some define the natural numbers to be the positive integer
    Integer
    The integers are formed by the natural numbers together with the negatives of the non-zero natural numbers .They are known as Positive and Negative Integers respectively...

    s
    {{nowrap|1=
    {{refimprove|date=October 2011}}

    In mathematics
    Mathematics
    Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

    , the natural numbers are the ordinary whole numbers used for counting
    Counting
    Counting is the action of finding the number of elements of a finite set of objects. The traditional way of counting consists of continually increasing a counter by a unit for every element of the set, in some order, while marking those elements to avoid visiting the same element more than once,...

     ("there are 6 coins on the table") and ordering
    Total order
    In set theory, a total order, linear order, simple order, or ordering is a binary relation on some set X. The relation is transitive, antisymmetric, and total...

     ("this is the 3rd largest city in the country"). These purposes are related to the linguistic notions of cardinal and ordinal numbers, respectively (see English numerals). A more recent notion is that of a nominal number
    Nominal number
    Nominal numbers are numerals used for identification only. The numerical value is irrelevant, and they do not indicate quantity, rank, or any other measurement.-Definition:...

    , which is used only for naming.

    Properties of the natural numbers related to divisibility, such as the distribution of prime number
    Prime number
    A prime number is a natural number greater than 1 that has no positive divisors other than 1 and itself. A natural number greater than 1 that is not a prime number is called a composite number. For example 5 is prime, as only 1 and 5 divide it, whereas 6 is composite, since it has the divisors 2...

    s, are studied in number theory
    Number theory
    Number theory is a branch of pure mathematics devoted primarily to the study of the integers. Number theorists study prime numbers as well...

    . Problems concerning counting and ordering, such as partition
    Partition (number theory)
    In number theory and combinatorics, a partition of a positive integer n, also called an integer partition, is a way of writing n as a sum of positive integers. Two sums that differ only in the order of their summands are considered to be the same partition; if order matters then the sum becomes a...

     enumeration
    Enumeration
    In mathematics and theoretical computer science, the broadest and most abstract definition of an enumeration of a set is an exact listing of all of its elements . The restrictions imposed on the type of list used depend on the branch of mathematics and the context in which one is working...

    , are studied in combinatorics
    Combinatorics
    Combinatorics is a branch of mathematics concerning the study of finite or countable discrete structures. Aspects of combinatorics include counting the structures of a given kind and size , deciding when certain criteria can be met, and constructing and analyzing objects meeting the criteria ,...

    .

    There is no universal agreement about whether to include zero in the set of natural numbers: some define the natural numbers to be the positive integer
    Integer
    The integers are formed by the natural numbers together with the negatives of the non-zero natural numbers .They are known as Positive and Negative Integers respectively...

    s
    {{nowrap|1=
    {{refimprove|date=October 2011}}

    In mathematics
    Mathematics
    Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

    , the natural numbers are the ordinary whole numbers used for counting
    Counting
    Counting is the action of finding the number of elements of a finite set of objects. The traditional way of counting consists of continually increasing a counter by a unit for every element of the set, in some order, while marking those elements to avoid visiting the same element more than once,...

     ("there are 6 coins on the table") and ordering
    Total order
    In set theory, a total order, linear order, simple order, or ordering is a binary relation on some set X. The relation is transitive, antisymmetric, and total...

     ("this is the 3rd largest city in the country"). These purposes are related to the linguistic notions of cardinal and ordinal numbers, respectively (see English numerals). A more recent notion is that of a nominal number
    Nominal number
    Nominal numbers are numerals used for identification only. The numerical value is irrelevant, and they do not indicate quantity, rank, or any other measurement.-Definition:...

    , which is used only for naming.

    Properties of the natural numbers related to divisibility, such as the distribution of prime number
    Prime number
    A prime number is a natural number greater than 1 that has no positive divisors other than 1 and itself. A natural number greater than 1 that is not a prime number is called a composite number. For example 5 is prime, as only 1 and 5 divide it, whereas 6 is composite, since it has the divisors 2...

    s, are studied in number theory
    Number theory
    Number theory is a branch of pure mathematics devoted primarily to the study of the integers. Number theorists study prime numbers as well...

    . Problems concerning counting and ordering, such as partition
    Partition (number theory)
    In number theory and combinatorics, a partition of a positive integer n, also called an integer partition, is a way of writing n as a sum of positive integers. Two sums that differ only in the order of their summands are considered to be the same partition; if order matters then the sum becomes a...

     enumeration
    Enumeration
    In mathematics and theoretical computer science, the broadest and most abstract definition of an enumeration of a set is an exact listing of all of its elements . The restrictions imposed on the type of list used depend on the branch of mathematics and the context in which one is working...

    , are studied in combinatorics
    Combinatorics
    Combinatorics is a branch of mathematics concerning the study of finite or countable discrete structures. Aspects of combinatorics include counting the structures of a given kind and size , deciding when certain criteria can be met, and constructing and analyzing objects meeting the criteria ,...

    .

    There is no universal agreement about whether to include zero in the set of natural numbers: some define the natural numbers to be the positive integer
    Integer
    The integers are formed by the natural numbers together with the negatives of the non-zero natural numbers .They are known as Positive and Negative Integers respectively...

    s
    {{nowrap|1={{{num|1}}, {{num|2}}, {{num|3}}, ...}}}, while for others the term designates the non-negative integers {{nowrap|1={{{num|0}}, 1, 2, 3, ...}}}. The former definition is the traditional one, with the latter definition first appearing in the 19th century. Some authors use the term "natural number" to exclude zero and "whole number
    Whole number
    Whole number is a term with inconsistent definitions by different authors. All distinguish whole numbers from fractions and numbers with fractional parts.Whole numbers may refer to:*natural numbers in sense — the positive integers...

    " to include it; others use "whole number" in a way that excludes zero, or in a way that includes both zero and the negative integers.

    History of natural numbers and the status of zero


    The natural numbers had their origins in the words used to count things, beginning with the number 1.

    The first major advance in abstraction was the use of numerals
    Numeral system
    A numeral system is a writing system for expressing numbers, that is a mathematical notation for representing numbers of a given set, using graphemes or symbols in a consistent manner....

     to represent numbers. This allowed systems to be developed for recording large numbers. The ancient Egyptians
    History of Ancient Egypt
    The History of Ancient Egypt spans the period from the early predynastic settlements of the northern Nile Valley to the Roman conquest in 30 BC...

     developed a powerful system of numerals with distinct hieroglyphs
    Egyptian hieroglyphs
    Egyptian hieroglyphs were a formal writing system used by the ancient Egyptians that combined logographic and alphabetic elements. Egyptians used cursive hieroglyphs for religious literature on papyrus and wood...

     for 1, 10, and all the powers of 10 up to over one million. A stone carving from Karnak
    Karnak
    The Karnak Temple Complex—usually called Karnak—comprises a vast mix of decayed temples, chapels, pylons, and other buildings, notably the Great Temple of Amun and a massive structure begun by Pharaoh Ramses II . Sacred Lake is part of the site as well. It is located near Luxor, some...

    , dating from around 1500 BC and now at the Louvre
    Louvre
    The Musée du Louvre – in English, the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement...

     in Paris, depicts 276 as 2 hundreds, 7 tens, and 6 ones; and similarly for the number 4,622. The Babylonia
    Babylonia
    Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

    ns had a place-value
    Positional notation
    Positional notation or place-value notation is a method of representing or encoding numbers. Positional notation is distinguished from other notations for its use of the same symbol for the different orders of magnitude...

     system based essentially on the numerals for 1 and 10.

    A much later advance was the development of the idea that zero
    0 (number)
    0 is both a numberand the numerical digit used to represent that number in numerals.It fulfills a central role in mathematics as the additive identity of the integers, real numbers, and many other algebraic structures. As a digit, 0 is used as a placeholder in place value systems...

     can be considered as a number, with its own numeral. The use of a zero digit
    Numerical digit
    A digit is a symbol used in combinations to represent numbers in positional numeral systems. The name "digit" comes from the fact that the 10 digits of the hands correspond to the 10 symbols of the common base 10 number system, i.e...

     in place-value notation (within other numbers) dates back as early as 700 BC by the Babylonians, but they omitted such a digit when it would have been the last symbol in the number. The Olmec
    Olmec
    The Olmec were the first major Pre-Columbian civilization in Mexico. They lived in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico, in the modern-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco....

     and Maya civilization
    Maya civilization
    The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period The Maya is a Mesoamerican...

    s used zero as a separate number as early as the 1st century BC, but this usage did not spread beyond Mesoamerica
    Mesoamerica
    Mesoamerica is a region and culture area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and...

    . The use of a numeral zero in modern times originated with the India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

    n mathematician Brahmagupta
    Brahmagupta
    Brahmagupta was an Indian mathematician and astronomer who wrote many important works on mathematics and astronomy. His best known work is the Brāhmasphuṭasiddhānta , written in 628 in Bhinmal...

     in 628. However, zero had been used as a number in the medieval computus
    Computus
    Computus is the calculation of the date of Easter in the Christian calendar. The name has been used for this procedure since the early Middle Ages, as it was one of the most important computations of the age....

     (the calculation of the date of Easter
    Easter
    Easter is the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Day or Easter Sunday...

    ), beginning with Dionysius Exiguus
    Dionysius Exiguus
    Dionysius Exiguus was a 6th-century monk born in Scythia Minor, modern Dobruja shared by Romania and Bulgaria. He was a member of the Scythian monks community concentrated in Tomis, the major city of Scythia Minor...

     in 525, without being denoted by a numeral (standard Roman numerals
    Roman numerals
    The numeral system of ancient Rome, or Roman numerals, uses combinations of letters from the Latin alphabet to signify values. The numbers 1 to 10 can be expressed in Roman numerals as:...

     do not have a symbol for zero); instead nulla or nullae, genitive of nullus, the Latin word for "none", was employed to denote a zero value.

    The first systematic study of numbers as abstraction
    Abstraction
    Abstraction is a process by which higher concepts are derived from the usage and classification of literal concepts, first principles, or other methods....

    s (that is, as abstract entities
    Entity
    An entity is something that has a distinct, separate existence, although it need not be a material existence. In particular, abstractions and legal fictions are usually regarded as entities. In general, there is also no presumption that an entity is animate.An entity could be viewed as a set...

    ) is usually credited to the Greek
    Ancient Greece
    Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

     philosophers Pythagoras
    Pythagoras
    Pythagoras of Samos was an Ionian Greek philosopher, mathematician, and founder of the religious movement called Pythagoreanism. Most of the information about Pythagoras was written down centuries after he lived, so very little reliable information is known about him...

     and Archimedes
    Archimedes
    Archimedes of Syracuse was a Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer. Although few details of his life are known, he is regarded as one of the leading scientists in classical antiquity. Among his advances in physics are the foundations of hydrostatics, statics and an...

    . Note that many Greek mathematicians did not consider 1 to be "a number", so to them 2 was the smallest number.

    Independent studies also occurred at around the same time in India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

    , China
    China
    Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

    , and Mesoamerica
    Mesoamerica
    Mesoamerica is a region and culture area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and...

    .{{fact|date=October 2011}}

    Several set-theoretical definitions of natural numbers
    Set-theoretic definition of natural numbers
    Several ways have been proposed to define the natural numbers using set theory.- The contemporary standard :In standard, Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory the natural numbers...

     were developed in the 19th century. With these definitions it was convenient to include 0 (corresponding to the empty set
    Empty set
    In mathematics, and more specifically set theory, the empty set is the unique set having no elements; its size or cardinality is zero. Some axiomatic set theories assure that the empty set exists by including an axiom of empty set; in other theories, its existence can be deduced...

    ) as a natural number. Including 0 is now the common convention among set theorists
    Set theory
    Set theory is the branch of mathematics that studies sets, which are collections of objects. Although any type of object can be collected into a set, set theory is applied most often to objects that are relevant to mathematics...

    , logic
    Logic
    In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

    ians, and computer scientists
    Computer science
    Computer science or computing science is the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation and of practical techniques for their implementation and application in computer systems...

    . Many other mathematicians also include 0, although some have kept the older tradition and take 1 to be the first natural number. Sometimes the set of natural numbers with 0 included is called the set of whole number
    Whole number
    Whole number is a term with inconsistent definitions by different authors. All distinguish whole numbers from fractions and numbers with fractional parts.Whole numbers may refer to:*natural numbers in sense — the positive integers...

    s or counting numbers. On the other hand, while integer being Latin for whole, the integers usually stand for the negative and positive whole numbers (and zero) altogether.

    Notation


    Mathematicians use N or (an N in blackboard bold
    Blackboard bold
    Blackboard bold is a typeface style that is often used for certain symbols in mathematical texts, in which certain lines of the symbol are doubled. The symbols usually denote number sets...

    , displayed as {{unicode|ℕ}} in Unicode) to refer to the set of all natural numbers. This set is countably infinite: it is infinite but countable
    Countable set
    In mathematics, a countable set is a set with the same cardinality as some subset of the set of natural numbers. A set that is not countable is called uncountable. The term was originated by Georg Cantor...

     by definition. This is also expressed by saying that the cardinal number
    Cardinal number
    In mathematics, cardinal numbers, or cardinals for short, are a generalization of the natural numbers used to measure the cardinality of sets. The cardinality of a finite set is a natural number – the number of elements in the set. The transfinite cardinal numbers describe the sizes of infinite...

     of the set is aleph-null .

    To be unambiguous about whether zero is included or not, sometimes an index (or superscript) "0" is added in the former case, and a superscript "" or subscript "" is added in the latter case:


    (Sometimes, an index or superscript "+" is added to signify "positive". However, this is often used for "nonnegative" in other cases, as R+ = [0,∞) and Z+ = { 0, 1, 2,... }, at least in European literature. The notation "", however, is standard for nonzero, or rather, invertible elements.)

    Some authors who exclude zero from the naturals use the terms natural numbers with zero, whole numbers, or counting numbers, denoted W, for the set of nonnegative integers. Others use the notation P for the positive integers if there is no danger of confusing this with the prime numbers.

    Set theorists often denote the set of all natural numbers including zero by a lower-case Greek letter omega
    Omega
    Omega is the 24th and last letter of the Greek alphabet. In the Greek numeric system, it has a value of 800. The word literally means "great O" , as opposed to omicron, which means "little O"...

    : ω. This stems from the identification of an ordinal number
    Ordinal number
    In set theory, an ordinal number, or just ordinal, is the order type of a well-ordered set. They are usually identified with hereditarily transitive sets. Ordinals are an extension of the natural numbers different from integers and from cardinals...

     with the set of ordinals that are smaller. One may observe that adopting the von Neumann definition of ordinals and defining cardinal numbers as minimal ordinals among those with same cardinality, one gets .

    Algebraic properties


    The addition (+) and multiplication (×) operations on natural numbers have several algebraic properties:
    • Closure
      Closure (mathematics)
      In mathematics, a set is said to be closed under some operation if performance of that operation on members of the set always produces a unique member of the same set. For example, the real numbers are closed under subtraction, but the natural numbers are not: 3 and 8 are both natural numbers, but...

       under addition and multiplication: for all natural numbers a and b, both a + b and a × b are natural numbers.
    • Associativity
      Associativity
      In mathematics, associativity is a property of some binary operations. It means that, within an expression containing two or more occurrences in a row of the same associative operator, the order in which the operations are performed does not matter as long as the sequence of the operands is not...

      : for all natural numbers a, b, and c, a + (b + c) = (a + b) + c and a × (b × c) = (a × b) × c.
    • Commutativity
      Commutativity
      In mathematics an operation is commutative if changing the order of the operands does not change the end result. It is a fundamental property of many binary operations, and many mathematical proofs depend on it...

      : for all natural numbers a and b, a + b = b + a and a × b = b × a.
    • Existence of identity element
      Identity element
      In mathematics, an identity element is a special type of element of a set with respect to a binary operation on that set. It leaves other elements unchanged when combined with them...

      s: for every natural number a, a + 0 = a and a × 1 = a.
    • Distributivity
      Distributivity
      In mathematics, and in particular in abstract algebra, distributivity is a property of binary operations that generalizes the distributive law from elementary algebra.For example:...

       of multiplication over addition for all natural numbers a, b, and c, a × (b + c)  =  (a × b) + (a × c)
    • No zero divisor
      Zero divisor
      In abstract algebra, a nonzero element a of a ring is a left zero divisor if there exists a nonzero b such that ab = 0. Similarly, a nonzero element a of a ring is a right zero divisor if there exists a nonzero c such that ca = 0. An element that is both a left and a right zero divisor is simply...

      s: if a and b are natural numbers such that a × b = 0   then a = 0 or b = 0

    Properties


    One can recursively define an addition on the natural numbers by setting a + 0 = a and {{nowrap|a + S(b)}} = {{nowrap|S(a + b)}} for all a, b. Here S should be read as "successor". This turns the natural numbers {{nowrap|(N, +)}} into a commutative monoid
    Monoid
    In abstract algebra, a branch of mathematics, a monoid is an algebraic structure with a single associative binary operation and an identity element. Monoids are studied in semigroup theory as they are naturally semigroups with identity. Monoids occur in several branches of mathematics; for...

     with identity element
    Identity element
    In mathematics, an identity element is a special type of element of a set with respect to a binary operation on that set. It leaves other elements unchanged when combined with them...

     0, the so-called free monoid
    Free object
    In mathematics, the idea of a free object is one of the basic concepts of abstract algebra. It is a part of universal algebra, in the sense that it relates to all types of algebraic structure . It also has a formulation in terms of category theory, although this is in yet more abstract terms....

     with one generator. This monoid satisfies the cancellation property
    Cancellation property
    In mathematics, the notion of cancellative is a generalization of the notion of invertible.An element a in a magma has the left cancellation property if for all b and c in M, a * b = a * c always implies b = c.An element a in a magma has the right cancellation...

     and can be embedded in a group
    Group (mathematics)
    In mathematics, a group is an algebraic structure consisting of a set together with an operation that combines any two of its elements to form a third element. To qualify as a group, the set and the operation must satisfy a few conditions called group axioms, namely closure, associativity, identity...

    . The smallest group containing the natural numbers is the integer
    Integer
    The integers are formed by the natural numbers together with the negatives of the non-zero natural numbers .They are known as Positive and Negative Integers respectively...

    s.

    If we define 1 := S(0), then b + 1 = b + S(0) = S(b + 0) = S(b). That is, b + 1 is simply the successor of b.

    Analogously, given that addition has been defined, a multiplication
    Multiplication
    Multiplication is the mathematical operation of scaling one number by another. It is one of the four basic operations in elementary arithmetic ....

     × can be defined via a × 0 = 0 and a × S(b) = (a × b) + a. This turns {{nowrap|(N*, ×)}} into a free commutative monoid with identity element 1; a generator set for this monoid is the set of prime number
    Prime number
    A prime number is a natural number greater than 1 that has no positive divisors other than 1 and itself. A natural number greater than 1 that is not a prime number is called a composite number. For example 5 is prime, as only 1 and 5 divide it, whereas 6 is composite, since it has the divisors 2...

    s. Addition and multiplication are compatible, which is expressed in the distribution law
    Distributivity
    In mathematics, and in particular in abstract algebra, distributivity is a property of binary operations that generalizes the distributive law from elementary algebra.For example:...

    :
    {{nowrap|a × (b + c)}} = {{nowrap|(a × b) + (a × c)}}. These properties of addition and multiplication make the natural numbers an instance of a commutative semiring
    Semiring
    In abstract algebra, a semiring is an algebraic structure similar to a ring, but without the requirement that each element must have an additive inverse...

    . Semirings are an algebraic generalization of the natural numbers where multiplication is not necessarily commutative. The lack of additive inverses, which is equivalent to the fact that N is not closed under subtraction, means that N is not a ring
    Ring (mathematics)
    In mathematics, a ring is an algebraic structure consisting of a set together with two binary operations usually called addition and multiplication, where the set is an abelian group under addition and a semigroup under multiplication such that multiplication distributes over addition...

    ; instead it is a semiring
    Semiring
    In abstract algebra, a semiring is an algebraic structure similar to a ring, but without the requirement that each element must have an additive inverse...

     (also known as a rig).

    If we interpret the natural numbers as "excluding 0", and "starting at 1", the definitions of + and × are as above, except that we start with a + 1 = S(a) and {{nowrap|a × 1 {{=}} a}}.

    For the remainder of the article, we write ab to indicate the product a × b, and we also assume the standard order of operations
    Order of operations
    In mathematics and computer programming, the order of operations is a rule used to clarify unambiguously which procedures should be performed first in a given mathematical expression....

    .

    Furthermore, one defines a total order
    Total order
    In set theory, a total order, linear order, simple order, or ordering is a binary relation on some set X. The relation is transitive, antisymmetric, and total...

     on the natural numbers by writing a ≤ b if and only if there exists another natural number c with a + c = b. This order is compatible with the arithmetical operations in the following sense: if a, b and c are natural numbers and a ≤ b, then {{nowrap|a + c}} ≤ {{nowrap|b + c}} and {{nowrap|acbc}}. An important property of the natural numbers is that they are well-order
    Well-order
    In mathematics, a well-order relation on a set S is a strict total order on S with the property that every non-empty subset of S has a least element in this ordering. Equivalently, a well-ordering is a well-founded strict total order...

    ed: every non-empty set of natural numbers has a least element. The rank among well-ordered sets is expressed by an ordinal number
    Ordinal number
    In set theory, an ordinal number, or just ordinal, is the order type of a well-ordered set. They are usually identified with hereditarily transitive sets. Ordinals are an extension of the natural numbers different from integers and from cardinals...

    ; for the natural numbers this is expressed as "ω".

    While it is in general not possible to divide one natural number by another and get a natural number as result, the procedure of division
    Division (mathematics)
    right|thumb|200px|20 \div 4=5In mathematics, especially in elementary arithmetic, division is an arithmetic operation.Specifically, if c times b equals a, written:c \times b = a\,...

     with remainder
    is available as a substitute: for any two natural numbers a and b with b ≠ 0 we can find natural numbers q and r such that
    a = bq + r and r < b.


    The number q is called the quotient
    Quotient
    In mathematics, a quotient is the result of division. For example, when dividing 6 by 3, the quotient is 2, while 6 is called the dividend, and 3 the divisor. The quotient further is expressed as the number of times the divisor divides into the dividend e.g. The quotient of 6 and 2 is also 3.A...

    and r is called the remainder
    Remainder
    In arithmetic, the remainder is the amount "left over" after the division of two integers which cannot be expressed with an integer quotient....

    of division of a by b. The numbers q and r are uniquely determined by a and b. This, the Division algorithm
    Division algorithm
    In mathematics, and more particularly in arithmetic, the usual process of division of integers producing a quotient and a remainder can be specified precisely by a theorem stating that these exist uniquely with given properties. An integer division algorithm is any effective method for producing...

    , is key to several other properties (divisibility), algorithms (such as the Euclidean algorithm
    Euclidean algorithm
    In mathematics, the Euclidean algorithm is an efficient method for computing the greatest common divisor of two integers, also known as the greatest common factor or highest common factor...

    ), and ideas in number theory.

    Generalizations


    Two generalizations of natural numbers arise from the two uses:
    • A natural number can be used to express the size of a finite set; more generally a cardinal number
      Cardinal number
      In mathematics, cardinal numbers, or cardinals for short, are a generalization of the natural numbers used to measure the cardinality of sets. The cardinality of a finite set is a natural number – the number of elements in the set. The transfinite cardinal numbers describe the sizes of infinite...

       is a measure for the size of a set also suitable for infinite sets; this refers to a concept of "size" such that if there is a bijection between two sets they have the same size
      Equinumerosity
      In mathematics, two sets are equinumerous if they have the same cardinality, i.e., if there exists a bijection f : A → B for sets A and B. This is usually denoted A \approx B \, or A \sim B....

      . The set of natural numbers itself and any other countably infinite set has cardinality aleph-null ().
    • Linguistic ordinal numbers "first", "second", "third" can be assigned to the elements of a totally ordered finite set, and also to the elements of well-ordered countably infinite sets like the set of natural numbers itself. This can be generalized to ordinal number
      Ordinal number
      In set theory, an ordinal number, or just ordinal, is the order type of a well-ordered set. They are usually identified with hereditarily transitive sets. Ordinals are an extension of the natural numbers different from integers and from cardinals...

      s which describe the position of an element in a well-ordered set in general. An ordinal number is also used to describe the "size" of a well-ordered set, in a sense different from cardinality: if there is an order isomorphism
      Order isomorphism
      In the mathematical field of order theory an order isomorphism is a special kind of monotone function that constitutes a suitable notion of isomorphism for partially ordered sets . Whenever two posets are order isomorphic, they can be considered to be "essentially the same" in the sense that one of...

       between two well-ordered sets they have the same ordinal number. The first ordinal number that is not a natural number is expressed as ; this is also the ordinal number of the set of natural numbers itself.


    Many well-ordered sets with cardinal number have an ordinal number greater than ω (the latter is the lowest possible). The least ordinal of cardinality (i.e., the initial ordinal
    Von Neumann cardinal assignment
    The von Neumann cardinal assignment is a cardinal assignment which uses ordinal numbers. For a well-ordered set U, we define its cardinal number to be the smallest ordinal number equinumerous to U. More precisely:...

    ) is .

    For finite well-ordered sets, there is one-to-one correspondence between ordinal and cardinal numbers; therefore they can both be expressed by the same natural number, the number of elements of the set. This number can also be used to describe the position of an element in a larger finite, or an infinite, sequence
    Sequence
    In mathematics, a sequence is an ordered list of objects . Like a set, it contains members , and the number of terms is called the length of the sequence. Unlike a set, order matters, and exactly the same elements can appear multiple times at different positions in the sequence...

    .

    Hypernatural numbers are part of a non-standard model of arithmetic due to Skolem.

    Other generalizations are discussed in the article on number
    Number
    A number is a mathematical object used to count and measure. In mathematics, the definition of number has been extended over the years to include such numbers as zero, negative numbers, rational numbers, irrational numbers, and complex numbers....

    s.

    Formal definitions


    {{Main|Set-theoretic definition of natural numbers}}

    Historically, the precise mathematical definition of the natural numbers developed with some difficulty. The Peano axioms state conditions that any successful definition must satisfy. Certain constructions show that, given set theory
    Set theory
    Set theory is the branch of mathematics that studies sets, which are collections of objects. Although any type of object can be collected into a set, set theory is applied most often to objects that are relevant to mathematics...

    , models
    Model theory
    In mathematics, model theory is the study of mathematical structures using tools from mathematical logic....

     of the Peano postulates must exist.

    Peano axioms


    {{Main|Peano axioms}}

    The Peano axioms
    Peano axioms
    In mathematical logic, the Peano axioms, also known as the Dedekind–Peano axioms or the Peano postulates, are a set of axioms for the natural numbers presented by the 19th century Italian mathematician Giuseppe Peano...

     give a formal theory of the natural numbers. The axioms are:
    • There is a natural number 0.
    • Every natural number a has a natural number successor, denoted by S(a). Intuitively, S(a) is a+1.
    • There is no natural number whose successor is 0.
    • S is injective, i.e. distinct natural numbers have distinct successors: if ab, then S(a) ≠ S(b).
    • If a property is possessed by 0 and also by the successor of every natural number which possesses it, then it is possessed by all natural numbers. (This postulate ensures that the proof technique of mathematical induction
      Mathematical induction
      Mathematical induction is a method of mathematical proof typically used to establish that a given statement is true of all natural numbers...

       is valid.)


    It should be noted that the "0" in the above definition need not correspond to what we normally consider to be the number zero. "0" simply means some object that when combined with an appropriate successor function, satisfies the Peano axioms. All systems that satisfy these axioms are isomorphic, the name "0" is used here for the first element (the term "zeroth element" has been suggested to leave "first element" to "1", "second element" to "2", etc.), which is the only element that is not a successor. For example, the natural numbers starting with one also satisfy the axioms, if the symbol 0 is interpreted as the natural number 1, the symbol S(0) as the number 2, etc. In fact, in Peano's original formulation, the first natural number was 1.

    A standard construction


    A standard construction in set theory
    Set theory
    Set theory is the branch of mathematics that studies sets, which are collections of objects. Although any type of object can be collected into a set, set theory is applied most often to objects that are relevant to mathematics...

    , a special case of the von Neumann ordinal construction, is to define the natural numbers as follows:
    We set 0 := { }, the empty set
    Empty set
    In mathematics, and more specifically set theory, the empty set is the unique set having no elements; its size or cardinality is zero. Some axiomatic set theories assure that the empty set exists by including an axiom of empty set; in other theories, its existence can be deduced...

    ,
    and define S(a) = a ∪ {a} for every set a. S(a) is the successor of a, and S is called the successor function.
    By the axiom of infinity
    Axiom of infinity
    In axiomatic set theory and the branches of logic, mathematics, and computer science that use it, the axiom of infinity is one of the axioms of Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory...

    , the set of all natural numbers exists and is the intersection of all sets containing 0 which are closed under this successor function. This then satisfies the Peano axioms
    Peano axioms
    In mathematical logic, the Peano axioms, also known as the Dedekind–Peano axioms or the Peano postulates, are a set of axioms for the natural numbers presented by the 19th century Italian mathematician Giuseppe Peano...

    .
    Each natural number is then equal to the set of all natural numbers less than it, so that
    • 0 = { }
    • 1 = {0} = {{ }}
    • 2 = {0, 1} = {0, {0}} = { { }, {{ }} }
    • 3 = {0, 1, 2} = {0, {0}, {0, {0}}} = { { }, {{ }}, {{ }, {{ }}} }
    • n = {0, 1, 2, ..., n-2, n-1} = {0, 1, 2, ..., n-2,} ∪ {n-1} = {n-1} ∪ (n-1) = S(n-1)

    and so on. When a natural number is used as a set, this is typically what is meant. Under this definition, there are exactly n elements (in the naïve sense) in the set n and nm (in the naïve sense) if and only if
    If and only if
    In logic and related fields such as mathematics and philosophy, if and only if is a biconditional logical connective between statements....

     n is a subset
    Subset
    In mathematics, especially in set theory, a set A is a subset of a set B if A is "contained" inside B. A and B may coincide. The relationship of one set being a subset of another is called inclusion or sometimes containment...

     of m.

    Also, with this definition, different possible interpretations of notations like Rn (n-tuples versus mappings of n into R) coincide.

    Even if the axiom of infinity fails and the set of all natural numbers does not exist, it is possible to define what it means to be one of these sets. A set n is a natural number means that it is either 0 (empty) or a successor, and each of its elements is either 0 or the successor of another of its elements.

    Other constructions


    Although the standard construction is useful, it is not the only possible construction. For example:
    one could define 0 = { }
    and S(a) = {a},
    producing
    • 0 = { }
    • 1 = {0} = {{ }}
    • 2 = {1} ={{{ }}}, etc.
    Each natural number is then equal to the set of the natural number preceding it.


    Or we could even define 0 = {{ }}
    and S(a) = a ∪ {a}
    producing
    • 0 = {{ }}
    • 1 = {{ }, 0} = {{ }, {{ }}}
    • 2 = {{ }, 0, 1}, etc.


    The oldest and most "classical" set-theoretic definition of the natural numbers is the definition commonly ascribed to Frege and Russell
    Bertrand Russell
    Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. At various points in his life he considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these things...

     under which each concrete natural number n is defined as the set of all sets with n elements. This may appear circular, but can be made rigorous with care. Define 0 as {{ }} (clearly the set of all sets with 0 elements) and define S(A) (for any set A) as {x ∪ {y} | xAyx } (see set-builder notation
    Set-builder notation
    In set theory and its applications to logic, mathematics, and computer science, set-builder notation is a mathematical notation for describing a set by stating the properties that its members must satisfy...

    ). Then 0 will be the set of all sets with 0 elements, 1 = S(0) will be the set of all sets with 1 element, 2 = S(1) will be the set of all sets with 2 elements, and so forth. The set of all natural numbers can be defined as the intersection of all sets containing 0 as an element and closed under S (that is, if the set contains an element n, it also contains S(n)). One could also define "finite" independently of the notion of "natural number", and then define natural numbers as equivalence classes of finite sets under the equivalence relation of equipollence. This definition does not work in the usual systems of axiomatic set theory because the collections involved are too large (it will not work in any set theory with the axiom of separation); but it does work in New Foundations
    New Foundations
    In mathematical logic, New Foundations is an axiomatic set theory, conceived by Willard Van Orman Quine as a simplification of the theory of types of Principia Mathematica. Quine first proposed NF in a 1937 article titled "New Foundations for Mathematical Logic"; hence the name...

     (and in related systems known to be relatively consistent) and in some systems of type theory
    Type theory
    In mathematics, logic and computer science, type theory is any of several formal systems that can serve as alternatives to naive set theory, or the study of such formalisms in general...

    .

    See also


    {{Col-begin}}
    {{Col-1-of-3}}
    • Canonical representation of a positive integer
    • Countable set
      Countable set
      In mathematics, a countable set is a set with the same cardinality as some subset of the set of natural numbers. A set that is not countable is called uncountable. The term was originated by Georg Cantor...

    • Integer
      Integer
      The integers are formed by the natural numbers together with the negatives of the non-zero natural numbers .They are known as Positive and Negative Integers respectively...


    {{Col-2-of-3}}

    {{Col-3-of-3}}
    {{Portal|Mathematics}}
    {{Col-end}}

    External links

    • Axioms and Construction of Natural Numbers
    • Essays on the Theory of Numbers by Richard Dedekind
      Richard Dedekind
      Julius Wilhelm Richard Dedekind was a German mathematician who did important work in abstract algebra , algebraic number theory and the foundations of the real numbers.-Life:...

       at Project Gutenberg
      Project Gutenberg
      Project Gutenberg is a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works, to "encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks". Founded in 1971 by Michael S. Hart, it is the oldest digital library. Most of the items in its collection are the full texts of public domain books...



    {{Number Systems}}

    {{DEFAULTSORT:Natural Number}}